Reliable narrator

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A reliable narrator is one who has a credible, authoritative voice in a narrative.



A main characteristic of a reliable narrator is his or her proximity in values to the implied author. The fictional truth of the narrative is typically related to readers via this reliable narrator, so this narrator should demonstrate a breadth of knowledge of situations and characters. The personal involvement of a reliable narrator does not typically impede a truthful account of the story, and so determining reliability should be based in part on the narrator's ability to distance him or herself from his or her personal relations with other characters to provide a more impartial account. The unreliable narrator performs in an opposite manner.


"The age of property holds bitter moments even for a proprietor. When a move is imminent, furniture becomes ridiculous, and Margaret now lay awake at nights wondering where, where on earth they and all their belongings would be deposited in September next. Chairs, tables, pictures, books, that had rumbled down to them through the generations, must rumble forward again like a slide of rubbish to which she longed to give the final push, and send it toppling into the sea. But there were all their father's books--they never read them, but they were their father's, and must be kept. There was the marble-topped chiffonier--their mother had set store by it, they could not remember why. Round every knob and cushion in the house sentiment gathered, a sentiment that was at times personal, but more often a faint piety to the dead, a prolongation of rites that might have ended at the grave."

-E.M. Forster, Howards End

Critical Debates

{is the term contested, challenged, defined differently, etc.?}

Related Terms

implied author, unreliable narrator


Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith. Narrative Fiction

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